As a student, Ben-Ner moved his studio practice to his home, and many of his works, such as Moby Dick, feature fantasy play with his family. In an unpublished interview with artist Boaz Arad, Ben-Ner said “I had to choose between being a bad father away from home a lot, and being a good father, staying at home and making concessions. To work at home is a type of compromise.” Themes of exile--of being on an island in the home--recur in other works, including Treehouse Kit (2005), in which the artist uses ordinary bedroom furniture kits to build a tree and other tropical accouterments. While the artist’s family has been on view in his work for years, the 2007 video Stealing Beauty brought their domestic life into a busy IKEA showroom. In this video the Ben-Ner clan, without permission, enacts home scenes in IKEA’s domestic vignettes (showering, sleeping, and bickering). With a humorous nod to their surroundings, father and children discuss the nature of private property and service-based commercial enterprise with a Marx/Engels slant. Pointing to the surrounding showroom as legitimate shoppers pass through the frame, Ben-Ner says, “This house belongs to us. We are the only ones who have the right to use it and the right to exclude others from using it…. Private property creates borders, son.” Source
All art comes from other art, and all immigrants come from other places. What makes Ben-Ner’s art stand out is that he puts these ideas together so well, continually cannibalizing the culture and objects he encounters, trying to make these things work for his art and his family. In this way, he echoes the immigrant’s story and the artist’s quest - Jerry Saltz
A still from Guy Ben-Ner’s "Moby Dick" (2000). ; Courtesy of MASS MoCA
The video artist Guy Ben-Ner became internationally renowned when he represented Israel at the Venice Biennale in 2005. The work he presented there, ‚Treehouse Kit’, deals with a tree made of pieces of furniture, which the artist turns into a tree of survival. It might, thus, serve the modern version of a Robinson Crusoe. Ben-Ner, who completed his art studies in New York in 2003, was the lone survivor already when he showed ‚Berkeley’s Island’ (1999) – the artist squatting, stranded next to a palm tree on a sandy island, in the middle of his kitchen. The quasi domesticated artist is reluctant to accept the roles allocated today to family members. He does the chores, but discusses his unsatisfied desires, and stresses the incongruity between the cliché-like fury of the artist or the savagery of man, and modern lifestyles. Ben-Ner uses his body in the performance videos in order to paint the self-portrait of the family man (Edelsztein). It is also the family man who tries to transmit everyday culture to his son in ‚Wild boy’ (2004), or who, in ‚Moby Dick’ (2000), converts his kitchen into a whaler, which does not hunt legendary animals, as in Herman Melville's novel, but gets to the bottom of traditional myths. Ben-Ner's filmed self-portraits show the artist after he has arrived in reality.